October 2012

Flag of southern secessionistsYesterday was Revolution Day, and naturally, a national holiday. The people of Yemen are enthusiastic holiday makers. The main street of Ma’alla was shut off at each end with debris and rubble for a demonstration by those in the city wanting to see the south of the country break away and once again be independent of the North.

At the same time, over the hill in Crater, there was a counter demonstration by those eager to hold the two parts of the country together. Both were well attended but had about them the air more of carnival than protest. Police and soldiers with armoured personnel carriers oversaw both in a casual way, and at no time had cause to leave the shade of their vehicles.

Hut by the cemetery at Ma'alla

A few days earlier, Nancy and I went to the main Ma’alla cemetery to photograph a grave for someone in England wanting to know where his father lies in Aden, and what the grave looks like. We found it without trouble. He had been in an accident and died in 1955. In the same row we spotted this poignant headstone, ‘In loving memory of Philippa Malone Dixon, wife of Wing Commander D.E. Dixon. Her life was take by a shark 5 July 1955.’ Sometimes we eat shark and chips here. The sharks, we are assured, come from a long way off. Still, it is a very sad epitaph.

As we left the graveyard, we saw young Abdullah, who keeps it very diligently. He told us that the municipality had cut off the cemetery water supply because the British Embassy had stopped paying the water bills. With his customary resourcefulness our friend had made a new connection to another supply. The authorities came recently to cut that off too. But, when they found Abdullah giving a very old man, who lives in a fragile shack leant up against the cemetery building, his daily wash with water from the illegal connection, they relented and commended his kindness.

The party for Dr AdelThis week Bishop Michael flies in and there is eager anticipation of his visit. He has not been able to come for a while. We shall look forward, amongst other things, to reporting on the visit, just concluded, of Dr Adel from Egypt, who operated hard and diligently taught our local staff in the eye department. He is a wonderfully enthusiastic, able and conscientious doctor, and we are delighted and grateful that he is committed to returning soon to give further supervision to our two local eye doctors, one of whom is already well able to operate on her own. During his ten days with us, 61 cataract operations were performed.

Last Friday we worshipped, of course, with the congregation of Christ Church – fourteen adults and four children. At the start of the service, Gashu from Ethiopia and Nazir from Pakistan, who, with Rex from the Philippines, have led weekly worship without faltering since our abrupt departure, asked us to kneel before them. They thanked God for our return and prayed that God would guide us in our visit. It was a deeply moving moment.

Amongst the congregation were four newcomers – two young Pakistani engineers, an Ethiopian house maid and a Colombian aid worker, all newlyEye patients waiting at the Ras Morbat clinic arrived in Aden. As she left, the Colombian woman said with radiant smile, “In the service I thanked God so much for those who made worship in this place possible.

Today I visited the UNHCR to set up a visit to their office by Bishop Michael. On the way home, the Yemeni friend driving me unexpectedly said that in a local paper this week there had been a caution from imams about the wearing of inappropriate clothes in mosques. Second-hand clothes from Europe are imported here and bought eagerly, often with little awareness of what may be printed on them. Apparently the newspaper article showed men kneeling at prayer. One wore a T-shirt saying mischievously, ‘God’s busy – can I help you’. The other had a cap on which was written, ‘Jesus lives’. He does indeed! …….

With warmest thanks for your interest and your prayers.

Our love and best wishes in Christ

Peter and Nancy

November 2009

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Service at Maalla Cemetery - Aden, YemenAt Christ Church, Remembrance Day is one of the highlights of the year and this year it was marked by a series of three services, attended by representatives of the British, French and Indian embassies; members of the local congregation; and other Christians living in Aden. The first service began at 10.55am in Ma’alla Cemetery, allowing us to observe the two minute silence at 11am. Wreaths were laid at the cemetery including one that had been sent by a family in England whose relative lies buried there.

At midday we gathered at Christ Church for the main service of the day, which was followed by a splendid lunch in the church hall when everyone was able to meet and relax. The day finished with an atmospheric dusk service at Silent Valley: a cemetery on the edge of the desert, far away from the hustle and bustle of Aden. As the sun set over the rocky hills, four sisters from the Missionaries of Charity sang a quiet song in honour of those buried there.

A poignant day for all involved, remembering those who have gone before us in this place.

Ras Morbat Institute

When Stefan Poldevaart first came to Yemen four years ago his plan was to teach technical skills to local people. His dream is finally becoming a reality as the building of the Ras Morbat Institute nears completion. The Institute has been built next to the church and consists of a teaching space on the ground floor and a community space upstairs. Early in 2010 Stefan will train two teachers: one Yemeni and one Somali. They will then provide the training for the first intake of students, who will also be a mixture of local Yemenis and refugees from Somalia. The team at Christ Church is most grateful to all those who have supported this project financially and have backed Stefan’s dream with the necessary resources. Particular thanks go to the British Embassy in Sana’a, Episcopal Relief & Development and the Anglican congregation in Bahrain.

Ras Morbat Institute, Aden, Yemen - June 2009

June 2009

Ras Morbat Institute, Aden, Yemen - November 2009

November 2009

Partnership with UNHCR

Another exciting development in the past few months is a new partnership with the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR. There are two large refugee camps on the outskirts of Aden and UNHCR has engaged our clinic to provide eye care to the refugees in Kharaz camp. A team from the eye department has been visiting the camp to perform basic eye examinations and to refer patients for operations at the clinic. So far the project has been running on a pilot basis and we hope that the partnership will lead to a more significant commitment in 2010.

The Kharaz Refugee Camp in Yemen
Refugees receiving treatment from the Ras Morbat Clinic mobile team

Nigel & Catherine’s Wedding

The wedding of Nigel and Catherine Dawkins

Nigel & Catherine Dawkins

On 17th October, Nigel Dawkins (Chaplain, Christ Church) married Catherine Lewis-Morris. The service took place in the UK, at St Mary’s Church, Caterham, where Nigel served his curacy. Over 200 friends and family came together to celebrate the wedding.

The service was followed by a reception at the Surrey National Golf Club, in what proved to be a wonderfully joyful and relaxed day. Catherine worked as an accountant in London for seven years and has spent the past three years training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. She is now with Nigel in Aden where she is helping to manage the chaplaincy finances.

On 15th January 2010 Catherine will be ordained deacon by Bishop Michael Lewis, Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, and will be licensed as Assistant Chaplain.

Prayer Points

  • for the finances of the church and clinic: as a result of the global recession, pledged support for 2010 is significantly lower than previous years;
  • for the management team at Christ Church as they face tough decisions regarding how best to reduce expenditure in 2010;
  • for the Ras Morbat Institute as it begins training its first students;
  • for the development of work with Somali refugees in partnership with UNHCR;
  • for Nigel and Catherine as they settle into married life together.
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Yemen - Heartbreak and Hope by Peter Crooks

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